The Toronto Maple Leafs moved to 2-0 in the preseason with a 4-0 win over the Philadelphia Flyers at Air Canada Center on Tuesday.
James van Riemsdyk, Brandon Kozun, Cody Franson and 2014 top pick William Nylander scored goals for Toronto, Greg McKegg had two assists and the tandem of Jonathan Bernier and rookie Antoine Bibeau made 23 saves for the shutout.
Toronto led 1-0 after 20 minutes on the strength of van Riemsdyk’s deft shot that beat Flyers goalie Steve Mason just under the crossbar.
The Leafs extended their lead in the third, as Kozun converted a Trevor Smith pass on a shorthanded 2-on-1 break. Franson added to the lead on a long shot that deflected off of former Leaf Luke Schenn and Nylander tallied late in the game, stealing the puck from Flyers defenseman Nick Schultz and backhanding the rebound past Mason.
Nylander played on a line with Phil Kessel and Mike Santorelli and appeared tentative and understandably nervous in the opening half of his first professional game, but the 18-year-old began to relax after nearly scoring on a second period power play.
“I think he was an energetic, nervous young hockey player.” Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle said after the game. “There’s nobody who can dispute the skill set that he possesses….it separates him from other players, when you notice the way he carries the puck and the confidence that he has on the ice surface, but again there’s some things we’d like to see him change.”
The Leafs will play a pair of split squad games against the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday.
Head coach Randy Carlyle has mentioned frequently that his approach this training camp is to take the depth acquired over the summer and assemble a forward unit with more balance and diversification. Not the prototypical “top-six, bottom six” philosophy with two scoring lines, a checking and energy line, but a “top nine” structure that ideally will have three lines playing at both ends of the ice and possessing the ability to score, with a versatile fourth line that can play 8-12 minutes per night and contribute on special teams.
The form that this “top nine” approach may take began with some line experimentation last weekend, as van Riemsdyk was played mostly with center Nazem Kadri and winger Matt Frattin. If the Leafs decide to split up the top offensive tandem of JVR and Kessel, it will be for the sake of getting consistent offensive output from more than one line.
The shift could result in veteran Joffrey Lupul being moved back to play with Bozak and Kessel or possibly being shifted to play right wing(where he is playing on Tuesday) to accommodate newcomer Booth, whose skill set fits a more offensive role and has played the left side most of his NHL career. Lupul played primarily the right side before being traded to Toronto in February, 2011.
Previous experience playing together may also be a factor in where players will be slotted. Booth and Mike Santorelli (who were paired with rookie Brandon Kozun on the weekend) were linemates in Florida and Vancouver, Frattin was teamed with former Marlies linemate Kadri and Daniel Winnik played with Peter Holland in Anaheim. *******If you are interested in sponsorship or advertising your business in the Greater Toronto / Southern Ontario area on this column, please send a message for more information by clicking on the “Contact” button at the top of the page.*******
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